Refocused: Digital Composing & Publishing

When I applied for the digital humanities fellowship, I had one idea about enacting DH. I was going to entirely transform a first-year course and learn a whole bunch of brand new things in order to do so. But my ideas have shifted as a result of conversations in our group, attending HASTAC, and experimenting last semester.

For spring 2018, I have refocused my pedagogical intentions on a class I have taught more than 20 times — intro to technical writing. I’m also focused on strengthening my existing knowledge in digital composing and publishing rather than learning something completely new from scratch. From this place of relative comfort, I am rewriting one unit entirely (there are four) and making adjustments to a second. These changes build on what I learned during my professional writing course of fall 2017.  Here’s the rewrite.

During Unit 3 of tech writing, we will host a panel,”The Risks and Rewards of Establishing a Professional Online Presence.”  I have lined up at least one former student, a DH colleague (Dr. Mac – thanks!), and the university’s internet security officer. I’ve also invited Career Services. Students in many majors are encouraged to create a LinkedIn presence, to create digital portfolios of their work, and/or to establish social media accounts for professional purposes. I want to have my tech writing students gain critical awareness about issues with such public writing so they can make informed decisions about self-representation in online environments.

The panel’s content is valuable, yet I’m also using it to model a typical kind of event that requires lots of writing to make happen. During the unit, I’ll have students select their own topics and organizations for which they will create mock or real panel events. In keeping with the course focus on workplace writing strategies, they will:

  • propose the event (the course description promised proposal writing),
  • invite speakers (business correspondence),
  • advertise the panel (to gain exposure to digital composing tools like Canva and practice integrating visuals and text rhetorically, to determine digital and analog means of distribution),
  • create a digital evaluation (to increase comfort with Google Forms and survey design), and
  • work with data from the evaluation in a followup report (to learn techniques for integrating quantitative visuals into narrative documents).

The version for students: Unit 3 Overview – Writing to Make an Event Happen

At the end of last semester, one of my realizations was that no matter how excited about a new approach I become, existing course objectives matter. So what I describe above is less a radical DH transformation of a course and more of a DH deepening in the ways I’m teaching it. Propose, correspond, advertise, evaluate, report: These are core workplace writing moves, most of which I assigned in prior tech writing courses already in various forms.  In my DH-informed version of the course, I’m deliberately ramping up my own and my students’ creative use of digital composing techniques and our critical awareness of issues in digital publishing.

Follow-up: Student examples

Differentiated Teaching Workshop Flyer Jessica Wilds-page-001
Jessica Wilds created a flyer on Canva to advertise her event. Used with permission.
2018-04-27 12.04.05
Jessica Wilds used Google Forms to create and distribute a survey to event participants. She interpreted the results in a report to the event sponsors. Used with permission.

Example Course Projects

Please edit this post & add your own resources!



Reflections and New Ideas

Having a couple days to reflect, I now have a lot of ideas about where I might go with my students. In fact, I’m now thinking of creating a project for another course that I teach, History of Rhetoric. One of my personal research interests is archival work and the various mapping platforms we looked at has encouraged me to think about how I could integrate a local historical (and rhetorical) archival project into the course. I want my students to have the experience of working with primary historical artifacts, and it occurred to me that a nonlinear archive project might be the perfect addition to that course! Stay tuned 🙂

As I’ve been thinking about my original project idea, a photo/digital essay, I’ve wondered if there are any additional platforms that might help organize narratives or arguments that aren’t necessarily well represented in broad geographical maps or timelines. For example, if a student decided to create a photo essay about an event on campus, there may not be enough varying geographical locations or enough passage in time to make significant use of the mapping/timeline platforms we viewed.

I love this example of digital reporting and storytelling, especially in its integration of writing, image, video, and hyperlinking. This piece is much more extensive than I could ask students to create (can’t imagine how much work this was!), but I think the more focused time and space of this story more closely aligns with what my students might produce. Maybe this is similar to what Russell was asking about in terms of conceptual mapping? Any suggestions for other platforms would be fantastic!

One final burning, unrelated question: does anyone have suggestions for free image editing platforms or software?

Beginning to use the timeline software

I decided not to wait until next semester but to jump right in and begin using the timeline software with my sophomores. They are doing projects on African-American composers of the 19th century, and instead of a paper I am letting them do a timeline. They will be looking for images (including published sheet music, if available), 19th-c books that mention their musicians, newspaper articles, etc. I also want them to add context, but the focus is first on the musicians themselves. I’m trying to determine the best place to share them in class. Most are not comfortable with Google Docs. Is it possible to share on Blackboard?

Also, I haven’t heard anything on how to use funds–anyone else have information? Thanks!

Story Maps

During our first weekend of workshops I came away with several new ideas about how to present material in the classroom. While I was already using some things, I realized techniques others were using in their respective fields could be easily applied to my own.

This week I have already begun to use some of the materials introduced in the workshop. The first being story maps. In a African American history course I am currently teaching one early section we cover is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Often times I struggle to make students realize the size and scope of this event and the parties involved. Using story maps I put together a short presentation which students can view on their own time. The presentation includes: a short paragraph about each port or castle, pictures and youtube videos which reinforce the history of each location.

I hope you enjoy my first story map.